Intensive Beginner Spanish & Global Health in Mexico

Program overview

The southern state of Oaxaca is the most ethnically and linguistically diverse state in Mexico. It is home to a vibrant craft and art scene, outstandingly colorful festivities amongst beautiful architecture and unique cuisine. Despite its cultural riches, Oaxaca ranks among the country’s most impoverished states, lags in its health and economic indicators, and faces a complex social environment. This program is ideal for those with little or no Spanish background, who want to develop this vital skill. Through this program, improve you Spanish language and cultural competency, all while learning about health and healthcare in Oaxaca.

During the first portion of the program, take 50 hours of intensive beginner Spanish classes focusing on basic grammar, conversation and medical Spanish used in patient histories and physical exams. After your language classes, learn about the social determinants of health by engaging with staff and supporting ongoing work and operations of local non-profit organizations. During the second half of the program, practice your language skills while shadowing practitioners at clinical rotations such as community clinics serving low-income populations. Understand the implications of social, economic and cultural factors of the patient, provider, and healthcare system. Come away with increased confidence communicating in Spanish in social and professional settings, as well as a holistic view of healthcare in Oaxaca City and how Mexicans access these services.

Become immersed in Oaxacan culture while living with a local family. In the city of Oaxaca, shop for local crafts and artisanry, explore museums and art galleries, or hang out with locals in the vibrant Zócalo or main plaza. CFHI participants may also organize weekend trips to nearby destinations, such as the Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán.


General information
Global Health Nursing Hospital & Inpatient Medicine Intensive Beginner Spanish Primary health care Public Health Traditional & Indigenous Medicine
Advanced Spanish Beginner Spanish Intermediate Spanish
Fees and Duration
4 Weeks - $3230 5 Weeks - $3775 6 Weeks - $4495 7 Weeks - $5255 8 Weeks - $6015 9 Weeks - $6480 10 Weeks - $7225
Start Dates
August 3rd, 2024 September 7th, 2024 October 5th, 2024 November 2nd, 2024 January 4th, 2025 February 1st, 2025 March 1st, 2025 April 5th, 2025 May 3rd, 2025 June 7th, 2025 July 5th, 2025 August 2nd, 2025 September 6th, 2025 October 4th, 2025 November 1st, 2025

About this program


The state of Oaxaca is best known for its indigenous peoples and cultures. The most populous indigenous groups in Oaxaca are the Zapotec or Mixtec, but there are sixteen that are officially recognized. These cultures have survived better than most others in Mexico due to the state’s rugged and isolating terrain. It is estimated that at least a third are speakers of indigenous languages, with 50% not able to speak Spanish.

The capital city, Oaxaca de Juarez, is located in a beautiful valley surrounded by the Sierra Mountains, approximately 500 km south of Mexico City. At the center of the city is Santo Domingo Plaza and magnificent church dating back to the 16th century. The city’s cobblestone streets are bustling with creative artisans and street vendors.

Program participants will find their home away from home in carefully selected homestays, screened by CFHI Local Coordinators in Oaxaca and following CFHI’s health and safety guidelines. Nestled within the historic center of Oaxaca city, these homestays offer the perfect blend of comfort and authenticity, situated in middle-class neighborhoods with excellent access to public transportation, shops, restaurants, and cafes. In some cases, CFHI scholars share a house or a room in the same homestay with fellow program participants.

Going beyond mere lodging, these homestays provide a unique opportunity to learn about the local culture and practice Spanish skills on a daily basis in an informal setting. Accommodations include two meals per day. At the welcome orientation, participants will be instructed on culture and work etiquette to have the best experience in both homestay and the health setting.

Participants should arrive in Oaxaca City, Mexico on the program start date and will be picked up from the airport by a CFHI representative and taken to their homestay. A welcome orientation will take place the Sunday or Monday after arrival.

Visas are not required for U.S. citizens. More information on travel and logistics will be provided by CFHI after acceptance into the program.

What’s Included

CFHI Program fees include the majority of your on the ground costs. As a nonprofit, CFHI strives to keep fees low and offers fundraising opportunities, scholarships and discounts.

Pre-Departure Support

  • Program advising and support via email, phone, and web meeting from CFHI’s Central Leadership team
  • Detailed online Pre-Departure Training that includes modules on program logistics (flights, visas, immunizations, and more), intercultural learning, introduction to health realities at your program site, and much more

On-Site Services

  • Airport pick-up upon arrival and transportation with a local CFHI representative to your program lodging
  • Welcome orientation 1-2 days after arrival covering safety, transportation, and other logistics
  • Spanish Classes: 50 hours/month of Spanish classes, including medical Spanish instruction and cultural activities
  • CFHI Local Team that provides instruction, logistical support, and 24/7 emergency response
  • Meetings and lectures on local healthcare system, socio-economic determinants of health and current cultural/historical topics. 
  • Placement and coordination of clinical and any public health activities (if relevant)
  • Accommodation and two meals per day
  • Local cell phone or support obtaining a local SIM card
  • International emergency medical and evacuation insurance (unless waived by your university or institution)

Post-Return Resources

  • Opportunities to engage as a CFHI Alumni Ambassador, reviewing scholarship applications, speaking on CFHI panels, and more
  • Access to CFHI alumni-only social media group/s featuring news and career opportunities related to Global Health
  • CFHI alumni newsletter highlighting events, professional development opportunities, resources, and ways to stay involved


Uniquely, 60% or more of CFHI student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large.


CFHI participants have free time during most evenings and weekends and may choose to organize trips to nearby destinations and take part in cultural activities offered within Oaxaca itself. In the city, enjoy colorful street markets and a lively nightlife. Sample local foods unique to the region like Oaxacan cheese, mole, a sauce made with chocolate and chiles, and chapulines or fried crickets. Approximately 6 miles outside of the city is Monte Albán, a pre-Columbian World Heritage Site dating back to 500 BC. Take a tour of local villages, each specializing in a traditional folk art including weaving, black clay ceramics, and alabrijes, or brightly colored wooden sculptures.

In Oaxaca, the celebrations are said to be some of the most vibrant in all of Mexico. It is home to the month-long cultural festival Guelaguetza, taking place in July and featuring indigenous music, food, art and costumes.


A typical day in a CFHI program is a blend of immersive learning, cultural exploration, and personal reflection. Participants begin their mornings with breakfast at their homestay, followed by 4-6 hours of clinical rotations. The clinical site assignments and schedule are shared by the local team upon arrival. In the afternoon, participants attend Spanish classes at the language school, with the hours and regularity varying based on the program. Weekends are free of program-planned activities.

Clinical Rotations & Public Health Placements


Clinical rotations in Oaxaca will provide students an opportunity to learn about rural and community health in this region. Students may participate in clinical rotations at NGO’s, primary and secondary level clinics, and a government hospital in Oaxaca.

The following hospitals, clinics, and public health sites are a sample of possible rotations during this program. After acceptance, students can indicate any preferences on their application. The local team does their best to accommodate learners’ preferences, based on local availability and conditions.


NGO Placements: Education NGO

This NGO increases access to an education for Oaxaca’s most needy children. The services they provide include nutritious meals, tutoring, classes, access to libraries and computer center, as well as offering additional support to help them along through the public school system.


NGO Placements: Center for Vulnerable & Unhoused Children

This non-profit organization provides services to vulnerable and unhoused children and their families. The children receive help with their homework, meals and participate in a wide range of activities such as arts and crafts, physical exercise, etc. The services have allowed some families to gain employment and a reduced need for children to work in the streets.


Clinical Rotations: Primary Healthcare Centers

Located in every neighborhood, these clinics provide services including health education and promotion, diagnosis and treatment of disease, prenatal care and family planning, and primary care services including vaccinations and well-child checkups. Learn from physicians and nurses educating the local population about chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, and infectious diseases including dengue, malaria and tuberculosis. These facilities also offer vaccinations, pap swears, and cancer screenings.


Clinical Rotations: General Government Hospital

This teaching hospital, located in the northern part of the city, receives funding from the government and civil organizations in Oaxaca. It provides primary, secondary and tertiary care at low cost. Rotate alongside Mexican medical students and residents in ob/gyn, pediatrics, surgery, and emergency wards. Shadow local healthcare professionals as they conduct morning rounds, general consults, and follow-up treatment.


Meet the Local Team

Dr. Magaly Chavez
Dr. Magaly Chavez
CFHI Oaxaca Medical Director

Dr. Magaly Chavez - CFHI Oaxaca Medical Director

The local Medical Director oversees and arranges all clinical and public health-related activities and is also responsible for coordinating healthcare and emergency services for participants as needed. They coordinate a cadre of preceptors who mentor and supervise program participants at both clinical and public/community health sites. Dr. Chavez is the expert on socioeconomic determinants of health in the region and healthcare delivery strategies in low-resource settings.

Dr. Chavez is a general practitioner and works in the Emergency Room of a local hospital. She has worked with CFHI since 2011 and enjoys teaching students about the healthcare system in Oaxaca. She has grown personally and professionally from her interactions with CFHI participants, and likes being a part of their training as future healthcare workers. In her free time she enjoys reading, dancing and listening to music and has completed several triathlons. 


Dr. Martha Canseco
Dr. Martha Canseco
CFHI Oaxaca Local Coordinator

Dr. Martha Canseco - CFHI Oaxaca Local Coordinator

The CFHI Local Coordinators manage the logistics of housing, transportation, and cultural immersion throughout the program. They are a valuable resource for any questions related to navigating the program locale, cultural norms, and tips on planning weekend travel.

Martha has been working with CFHI since 2004 and is the co-director of a language school in Oaxaca. She has extensive experience running cultural immersion programs for foreign students. Martha is a Dental Surgeon with her own clinic and a certified Spanish instructor. She completed her training at Benito Juárez University in Oaxaca and the Autonomous University of Mexico. She loves all music; especially dance music from the 80s.

Sandra Rivera
Sandra Rivera
CFHI Oaxaca Local Coordinator

Sandra Rivera - CFHI Oaxaca Local Coordinator

The CFHI Local Coordinators manage the logistics of housing, transportation, and cultural immersion throughout the program. They are a valuable resource for any questions related to navigating the program locale, cultural norms, and tips on planning weekend travel.

Sandra has been working with CFHI since 2004 and is the co-director of a language school in Oaxaca. She has extensive experience running cultural immersion programs for foreign students. Sandra has a diploma in Teaching Spanish as a second language from the Autonomous University of Mexico. In her free time she enjoys cooking desserts, going to the movies and spending time with her family.

This Program Requires English, Novice Spanish
Leading this program are our CFHI on-site Global Team members, all of whom speak Spanish, and some English. Translators are not provided during this program. You will take Spanish language classes throughout your program, and all daily interactions will be in Spanish. CFHI’s local team will support and help you through your experience. This program is for Novice Spanish speakers or higher.


This CFHI program is ideal for participants who are 19 years of age or older with Novice Spanish or above, who have an interest in fields related to intensive beginner Spanish, primary healthcare and traditional & indigenous medicine. You do not need to be a student to be eligible for this program; mid-career professionals, GAP year learners, and others are also welcome. This program will provide an in-depth overview of intensive beginner Spanish, primary health care and traditional & indigenous medicine in Latin America through visits and experiences within hospitals, clinics, and NGO’s in Oaxaca. To confirm your eligibility, please read CFHI’s general eligibility requirements.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a global roadmap set forth by the United Nations General Assembly to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure the well-being of all individuals by the year 2030. This program highlights the following SDGs:

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What alumni say about this program

Chivon S.
Chivon S. Medical Student, Morehouse School of Medicine

“I was fully immersed into Mexican culture from the time I arrived. It took me a few days to overcome the language barrier since my family did not speak very much English. The staff at the Spanish school were amazing and very helpful with helping me get acquainted with the city. The host family was very sweet, fed me well, and really helped to reinforce my language skills.”

Fanny D.
Fanny D. University of Michigan Medical School

“My month-long experience in Oaxaca, although short in duration, was incredibly enriching, thought-provoking, and has made a huge impact on my mindset. I have realized even more the importance of listening and making the effort to understand different perspectives. As a prospective physician, I hope that these qualities…” Read More.

How to Apply

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Complete pre-departure training and requirements


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